The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power
The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power
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It's more like that now!
Look, I'll admit there are a number of reasons I warmed to this episode ofThe Rings of Powermore than its predecessors. Maybe as a guy with the White Tree of Gondor tattooed on my arm, I just want a J.R.R. Tolkien TV series success. Maybe I'm just getting used to the show's portrayals of its characters and world and learning to live with them instead of rubbing against them. Maybe I feel peer pressure!
Or -- and I think that's the more likely case -- maybe the series will finally do what I wanted from the start: tighten the focus, drop the cheap "cliffhanger" mysteries that artificially propelled the plot, and let The Story should emerge organically from interactions between characters with different personalities, goals, fears, plans, and desires. Maybe it's actinglike a spectacle, instead of an expensive sandbox to play in with a bunch of Tolkien and Tolkienesque toys.
In other words, maybe it turned out good!
The episode takes its title "The Great Wave" from a recurring and prophetic vision experienced by the Númenorean queen Tar-Míriel, her ailing and deposed royal father, and finally Galadriel, courtesy of a palantír. No, not right-wing ghoul Peter Thiel's panopticon, but the magical crystal ball he named it after. (You see? There's a long history of right-wing ghouls who don't understand Tolkien! The "hobbits and elves can't be black" people just hop on the world's shittiest train.) It features the petals of the kingdom's mystical White Tree, fall, the entire kingdom will be swept away by a gigantic tidal wave. This, Míriel's father believed - probably rightly - is the fate that awaits this mighty kingdom of men unless they repent of their wicked ways, be reconciled with the Elves, and once again follow the will of the gods called the Valar . For his attempts to get them all to do so, he was banished to his own tower.
And now we learn the reason why Galadriel's presence made the queen so nervous. It's not that she shares the anti-elf racism of her people, some of whom rant in the streets that elves take good jobs away from people (lol), others - like her adviser, Chancellor Pharazôn - simply argue that there aren't any Elves are ever so powerful a realm that could threaten humans. Rather, it is because Galadriel's arrival was the beginning of that terrifying vision, the trigger point that begins it all.
So, after several tense conversations during which it appears Tar-Míriel will once again refuse Galadriel's request for help against the resurgent Sauron, the Queen changes course and rallies the kingdom for a full-scale naval invasion of Middle-earth to defeat the enemy. (Even Pharazôn is on board for the plan.) And it seems that friendly Captain Elendil and his failure Isildur will help lead the charge. And oh, Pharazôn's son Kemen (Leon Wadham) is now dating Elendil's daughter Eärien. As I like to say, what could go wrong?
Back in Middle-earth, we leave Harfoot's story and rejoin Elrond's, which is already underway. Thanks to the help he has received from Prince Durin and the dwarves of Khazad-dûm, the massive forge needed by the artisan Celebrimbor for his grand plan - whatever that may be - is half complete. Celebrimbor himself has an interesting moment, remembering Elrond's father, the legendary hero Earendil, who once told him that Elrond held Celebrimbor's fate in his hands. His sudden uneasiness is oddly reminiscent of BilboThe Fellowship of the Ring, realizing something is wrong with him, but can't tell what. It's as if the power of the rings that Celebrimbor intends to forge (sorry if that's a spoiler!) is already affecting him.
Anyway, Elrond returns to the Dwarf Kingdom where we finally discover the nature of the mysterious Maguffin that the Prince and his father were trying to hide from Elrond. (Unraveling forced mysteries like this and the nature of Tar-Míriel's father goes a long way in making the series feel more coherent and streamlined.) It turns out that for the very first time in history, they've discovered the almost-magical silver species called Mithril - lighter than silk, stronger than steel, more valuable than gold, and luminous as if lit from within, as Prince Durin and Elrond describe it.
The problem is, thatKönigDurin is staunchly opposed to the project, concerned about the instability of the mine required to excavate the mithril - which actually collapses, nearly killing several unseen workers. (As Princess Disa points out, Elrond's visit is probably the only thing that kept Prince Durin from collapsing as well.) But when the prince starts ranting about slandering his father, Elrond tells his own story to father Earendil, whose wondrous efforts to woo the Valar aided the forces of good in defeating the great enemy Morgoth, and caused the gods to place Earendil and his ship in the celestial skies, where he convicts the North Star on his nocturnal rounds.
In other words, says Elrond, let go of grudges and appreciate your father while you still have him. This is what the prince does in a really touching scene where the king promises his son that he will always be with him even when he's angry - hey,particularlywhen he is angry. (He also sends the prince back to the elven kingdom of Lindon with Elrond to see what the heck the elves are really up to.)
Speaking of elves, hoo boy, do we have any news on that front? Still trapped by the orcs that have appeared in the Southlands, Arondir meets their leader, a being they call "Adar" or "Father". Played by Joseph Mawle,Game of ThronesBenjen Stark appears to be a corrupted Elf, severely scarred by some unknown trauma and imbued with a penchant for speaking in evocative, mystical dialogue. "You have been told so many lies," he says to Arondir. "It would almost take a whole new world to unravel it all."
"I'm not a god," he says. "At least not yet." Oops! While the canonicity of such a corrupted Elf is in doubt - Tolkien went back and forth about whether the Orcs were originally distorted Elves, and while Elves certainly commit horrible crimes from time to time in Tolkien's books, not a single Elf went to work for Morgoth or Sauron - his dark enlightenment vibe is compelling.
And he has a reflection in the humans, led by Bronwyn, who now reside in the abandoned elven watchtower where Arondir once worked. There is a subplot where Bronwyn's child Theo and one of his friends return to their abandoned village for supplies, only for Theo to be captured by orcs and has to be rescued by Bronwyn and Arondir, who Adar freed - more on that later - but that's not really the important thing.
WasIs?We discover the nature of the Sauronic artifact that Theo stole from the tavern owner's secret stash. It is a hilt for a magical blade that forms from shadows - a weapon that Adar and his orcs have been searching for. Thanks to Theo, they now know the humans have it and hide it in the tower. The landlord knows it too, and he knows exactly what it is and what it is used for – actually always has known. He refers to his original owner as "the handsome servant" and reveals that he still harbors sympathy for the devil, just like his ancestors. "Have you heard from him, boy?" he asks Theo. "Have you heard of Sauron?" Really creepy stuff. (He also says that the meteor from earlier in the season is a sign that Sauron's return is near, although personally I still doubt the Meteorman is Sauron himself.)
I'm not sure who to attribute the show's sudden creative turn to. Perhaps author Stephany Folsom, who along with showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay helped write the episode? Maybe the whole team who may have initially scattered the story and rolled it out slowly, but now in episode four have had the opportunity to spread all the pieces and finally put them together? Maybe I'm just getting used to it? Regardless, I'm glad I enjoyed the episode so much and I'm excited to see where the story goes now that it's, you know,go. Keep it up!
Sean T.Collins(@theseantcollins) writes about TV forRolling Stone,Geier,Die New York Times, Andanywhere that will have him, Really. He and his family live on Long Island.
- Morfydd Clark
- The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power